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Make a No-Regret Decision Regarding Your Business Phone Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 10, 2021 9:19:40 AM

Every day, you face decisions regarding your business, some easy, some difficult. The successful business makes more decisions that prove to be favorable than they make decisions that they regret. When moving your business communications to a VoIP phone service, you simply cannot afford to regret the service provider selection. Customer communications and internal processes need to be enhanced, not impaired by your decision.

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Business Phone Service

Where the National Business VoIP Providers Fall Short

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 27, 2021 9:30:00 AM

Most businesses have made the switch to Hosted VoIP phone services, taking advantage of powerful features to improve their communication strategies both internally and externally. They also received the added benefit of finding an alternative to their traditional telephone provider who reciprocated their years of service with rate increases, outsourced customer service, and old technology. In making the switch, many have gravitated to the “national” providers whose marketing budgets cast a wide net over potential customers. In doing so, these businesses have found similarities to their previous relationships with their telecommunication provider and have been left underwhelmed and underserved in the process.

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Business VoIP

Unsure Which Direction to Go? Find the Best Phone System for Your Small Business.

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 12, 2019 9:36:00 AM

You know it is time for a new phone system, but you're overwhelmed with how to start your search.  This will help you determine what type of phone service provider is best for your small business.  Many small businesses have determined that their existing phone system is outdated and past the point for repair and they are looking where to turn to maximize their new investment.  Their current phone system is failing or falling behind the features and functionality their peer businesses or competitors are now enjoying since moving to a Hosted VoIP phone service.  Even though it is clear through high adoption rates that most companies have selected Hosted VoIP as the best phone system for small business, it is more of a challenge to find the service provider that will work best for you.

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Tags: voip service provider selection, small business phone service

The Case for Full Service Hosted VoIP vs. DIY

Posted by Mark Greim on Jul 27, 2018 1:02:15 PM

Most small businesses have already made the shift to a Hosted VoIP phone service. Many have been unable to take full advantage of the features and flexibility of these systems due to the inability to navigate the do-it-yourself programming portal pushed by the nationally branded VoIP providers.  This has led to frustration with the technology. The good news is that there are Hosted VoIP providers that can take care of the complexities of the programming and help conform the phone system to the needs of the business.

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Customer Service

Narrowing the List of Hosted VoIP Providers

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 24, 2016 11:07:28 AM

If your business is ready to make the switch to hosted VoIP phone service, or you are ready to look for alternatives to the national hosted VoIP providers, how do you narrow down the seemingly large group of alternative providers in the marketplace?  It isn't an easy task and it will take a little effort.  However, the reward for find the right solution for your business will benefit you for years to come.

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Hosted VoIP, Changing Phone Service Providers

You do NOT Need More Bandwidth for VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 14, 2014 11:47:00 AM

There is no nice way to put this, but certain national Hosted VoIP providers are giving the industry a bad name.   There are countless examples of businesses who are experiencing poor voice quality with these providers and receive the standard recommendation to increase their internet bandwidth.  This solution costs more money and isn’t always the best advice.

The fact of the matter is that VoIP calls do not take much bandwidth, less than 80kb per call.  However, because voice and data packets are sharing the same connection, there is always an opportunity for voice packets to be interrupted by data packets.  Expanding bandwidth doesn’t always take care of the problem.

One of sipVine’s biggest differentiators in the market is that we believe that call quality is best controlled on the customer’s network.  We provide a router or a transparent bridge that has Quality of Service programming built in, ensuring your voice calls have priority.  This allows your business to right size the amount of bandwidth to match the needs of the business and not overbuild just for VoIP. 

Certainly, there are occasions where the amount of data activity is over-saturating the internet bandwidth.  In those situations, QoS will not be able to work as well as it should and the bandwidth will need to be addressed.  However, we are bringing businesses on to our platform on daily bases that have experienced this poor advice from a national hosted VoIP provider.  In addition to providing a localized QoS device, we have helped our customers troubleshoot issues with their internet circuit to find the root cause of the call quality concerns.  This has saved them from blindly adding bandwidth, thus saving them dollars on a monthly basis.

To learn more, check out our whitepaper, Voice Quality: The Ultimate Differentiator in VoIP Providers.

 Download Whitepaper

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: VoIP Bandwidth Requirements, voip service provider selection

sipVine Blog | Add Coolness to Your Hosted VoIP System

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 14, 2013 11:45:00 AM

One of the great advantages of implementing a Hosted VoIP Phone Service is that it can be customized to match the needs of the business.  There are a variety of standard items that should be customizable in any VoIP phone solution.  The right hosted VoIP provider can serve in a consultative manner to discern how those items should be programmed to meet the business requirements.  Great providers can take customization to another level and have your system do things to delight your associates and customers.

As you compare providers, be mindful that some provide “do-it-yourself” web portals.  These are great for routine administration, but higher level customization requires a provider that is willing to create the program and able to understand the business application.  At sipVine, a mid-western based national hosted VoIP provider, we made a strategic decision to provide as much customization as possible.  Robert Conner, sipVine’s CEO, states:  “Frankly, custom programming to specific customer needs doesn’t fit well in a mass-volume, high-margin approach.  However, we believe that customers will become long-term, loyal fans if you position yourself as their personal phone department.  We have the technological talent to be able to do some great things with the software, so our customer should be able to reap the benefits!”

There are some customizable aspects of VoIP systems that are table stakes for any hosted VoIP service company, whether it is from a provider like sipVine or from someone who provides a web portal for option setting.  These should include the following:

  • Call flow direction – ring groups
  • Time of day routing
  • Automated attendant options

However, there can be some cool things your system can do if you choose the right provider.  Here are a few examples of custom programming in which sipVine has provided to their customers:

    • Dynamic on-call programming – there have been several customers who deploy a varied on-call schedule through a selection on their after-hours auto attendant.  They are simply able to punch in some codes on their phones that select the specific person or ring group they want to be on-call for the day or period.
    • Multiple caller ID delivery – some companies have multiple subsidiaries or brands they represent.  sipVine can fix a specific caller ID being delivered by various associates, and provide the ability to deliver different caller IDs depending certain outside line access selections. 
    • E911 notification – one of sipVine’s customers requested a central notification process if a phone in their context dials 911.  This is unique and important to their application.  If a 911 is dialed from phone on their network, a central phone is immediately notified with an audible message and email notice is delivered to designated parties.

Colin Wells, sipVine’s CTO expands, “We have built quite a number of custom applications for customers that we have since rolled out as standard options.  The best ideas for new capabilities definitely are born out of real world applications.  We haven’t figured out how to get the phones to empty the trash, but we can certainly automate a notification to a phone that it is time to empty the trash!  In all seriousness, there are even more custom programs that occur behind the scenes that most people don’t know about, like security scripts and automated setting back-ups.  We think they are cool, but our customers are not aware of them.  They just know that they are in good hands.”

There are a number of choices out there for a hosted phone service provider.  As you conduct your research, see which providers are “quote driven” and which ones want to know about your business and how you utilize the phones.  That will give you a pretty good idea as to how they will service you going forward.   

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Configuring digital phone service

Is your Business VoIP Ready? Here’s Your Checklist!

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 10, 2013 10:19:00 AM

Most businesses looking to upgrade their phone communications are taking advantage of the benefits a VoIP system and service has to offer.  Productivity, internal communications, and customer satisfaction all can achieve measureable improvement through VoIP technology.  Below are a few items to review to ensure your business is ready for a conversion to VoIP.

  • Hosted vs. On-site – The first question to be addressed is if your business should invest in an on-site VoIP system versus a Hosted system.  The advantage of a Hosted VoIP Service is that the up-front investment is much lower, as you are only purchasing the VoIP handsets and some minor equipment.  Typically, the hosted provider will handle your administration as well.  Your monthly service is a function of the number of users/phones you have on the system.  On-site systems are much more expensive up-front and you have responsibility for administration.  However, if you provision sip trunks to the system, you only need to provision the number of trunks to match your maximum concurrent call volume.
  • Existing Telecom Contract – Check with your current phone service provider to determine whether you are under contract.  Many have automatic renewals that kick in without notice.  If you are planning on switching in the near future, understanding the nature of automatic renewals and cancellation notice requirements is important.
  • Bandwidth RequirementsVoIP does not require much bandwidth, only 80kb per call, both upload and download.  Gain an understanding of your maximum concurrent calls as well as your current bandwidth utilization.  A wired internet connection to the building is highly recommended.  If you are already experiencing the effects of bandwidth saturation, you should consider expanding your bandwidth prior to deploying VoIP.
  • Ethernet – VoIP phones require an Ethernet connection to the phone.  Most VoIP phones have two ports, so it can share an Ethernet connection with a computer.  Most of the VoIP phones have 100mb ports.  If you have built your internal network to gigabit speeds, there are some VoIP phone models with 1gb ports.  One “gotcha” we run into a lot when converting companies from analog phones to VoIP are wall mounted locations.  Ethernet cabling will need to be run to those locations and power delivery is also a consideration.
  • Power Requirements – VoIP phones require power, and there are a couple of options.  Traditional power cords from the phone (provided with the phone) to an outlet are the least expensive alternative.  You can also deliver power to the phone over the Ethernet cabling if you deploy Power over Ethernet (POE) switches on your network.  This is a very nice luxury, as it removes the power cord from the desk area, but POE switches come in at a premium over standard switch pricing.  If you are deploying a wall mounted phone or phones, or even a conference room phone where you don’t want to be inhibited by a power cord, POE becomes more than a necessity.  If you don’t want to spring for a full switch that is POE enabled, there are some single port POE injectors that will deliver power to the single phone.
  • Paging – Many VoIP phones and hosted service provides offer paging to phones, direct paging, and paging groups.  Additional considerations come into play if you have any overhead paging systems tied into the phone system.  There are some adapters on the market that will allow for this, but be sure to have a conversation with your potential providers to see how they will accommodate your needs in this area.
  • Provider Selection – The good news is that you have a large pool of potential providers to choose from.  For hosted services, your phone equipment and service will come from the same provider.  Every company has their own priorities and goals that will influence provider selection, but there are a few characteristics that should be table stakes for your potential provider:
    1. Do they promote best in class VoIP phone manufacturers?  Cisco and Polycom are great examples.
    2. Does their service footprint cover your potential for growth and expansion?
    3. How do they address Quality of Service?  Most suggest more bandwidth.  sipVine contends that QoS is best handled by a local device to prioritize voice packets.  Read more in our VoIP Voice Quality whitepaper.
    4. Does the provider require a term contract and do they build the phones in a locked manner?  Hosted VoIP providers confident in their delivery of service do not build in such restrictions.
    5. Do they provide a consultative service to effectively build your system to match how you do business?  Good providers help you take advantage of the power and flexibility of these solutions through custom programming.  If the providers provide a web portal for you to do it yourself, be wary.  It is cool, but it also speaks to their service philosophy.
    6. What is the provider’s customer service philosophy?  Do they essentially become an extension of your company and function as your phone department?  Wouldn’t that be refreshing?  It is what your business deserves!

I hope this checklist of items has been a good resource for you as you evaluate the potential of moving to a VoIP system.  Your comments are welcome!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: voip service provider selection, voip business phone system, Phone System Replacement

19 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Hosted VoIP Phone Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 12, 2013 1:48:00 PM

sipVine, a national business VoIP service provider, has published a new ebook that provides many insights on how to fully take advantage of your hosted VoIP phone service.  If you are currently utilizing the service or are investigating hosted VoIP for your business, this ebook will provide you with many ideas on how to leverage the new technology to enhance your communications with your customers and employees.

In the eBook, 19 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Hosted VoIP Phone Service, we cover the following topics:

  • Delight Your Customers with an Effective Call Flow and Auto Attendant
  • Streamline Your High-Customer-Touch Associates
  • Generate Efficiencies in Your Business
  • Accessorize Your System
  • Select the Right Provider
This free ebook is available for download.  We hope you enjoy it!
Download eBook
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Tags: voip service provider selection, Hosted VoIP

sipVine Blog | Does Your Business Phone Provider Deliver?

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 24, 2013 9:55:00 AM

What if your phone service provider delivered customer service as if they were located next door to your office?  Fantasy?  Perhaps, but your business deserves it!  You should consider moving to a hosted phone service where your business phone equipment and phone service are provided by the same company.  The formula will be in place to make awesome customer service delivery possible, and it will then be a responsibility of that provider to make it happen.

At sipVine, we have built this concept into our core beliefs and practices, as we understand what it will mean to a customer to feel that they are receiving remarkable customer service from a telecommunications provider.  The marketplace has been under serviced, subject to a series of a voice recognition entry points just to have your call delivered to a service representative who doesn’t have a clue of who you are and how your business uses communication services.

There are a few ways in which we make this possible:

No Contracts – sipVine’s philosophy is that no customer should be bound to a term contract with us to achieve discounts or other advantages.  We have a simple rate schedule that drives savings to our customers.  Moreover, we sincerely believe that we need to earn our business each and every day, and have built such a belief system into our culture and practices. 

Customization – Customers expect that their investment in new technology will provide them with features and benefits that their current system doesn’t offer.  However, we take that one step further in that our technology is very flexible and can be customized to meet their needs or enhance their communication practices.  We hold extensive configuration meetings with the customer prior to installation so that we can fully understand their communication patterns and consult on the best design for their system deployment.  We then handle all of the programming to make this happen.  Not only does this help guarantee satisfaction, it gives us the opportunity to get to know our customers in a very detailed way. 

The Phone Company Next Door – Because we get to know our customers in great detail and that knowledge is specifically passed to all service personnel, we are able to deliver a feeling to our customers that we are their personal phone department.  We handle all of their phone administration for them, and thus are in position for routine contact with a variety of people within the organization.  Whether we are servicing a company based in Kansas City where we are located, or one of our customers in other cities across the country, we routinely delight them through this approach of providing service as if we were the phone company next door.

As I mentioned, the capability of delivering such service is quite possible for any hosted VoIP provider.  As you research potential providers, ask a series of questions that will uncover their approach to service and reveal if they are leveraging the unique opportunity to deliver superb service.  Here are just a few:

  1. Are you able to customize the call flow and other features to meet my unique business needs?  Do you do this programming or is it incumbent upon me to do the set up via a web portal?
  2. When I call for service or administration, where does this call go?  Will I be talking with someone who knows my business and the unique configuration we may have?  Are your technicians contract or overseas?
  3. Are the officers of the company engaged in service delivery in any capacity?

This should help provide an idea as to how they approach customer service.  Happy hunting and remember, your business deserves it!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: voip service provider selection

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